Monday, April 28, 2014

100 Races: Why It's All About The Shoe

On May 17, the finish line at the Brooklyn Half will make it official: 100 official scored races done! It is celebration time on this blog, which has chronicled a devotion to running. I believe that shoes are the most important element in this physical and spiritual journey, and mine is a story of lessons that begins and ends with ASICS. If you read all the way to the end, you'll even find a review of the new ASICS GEL-Cumulus 16, shown in both pictures above.

On December 1, 2006, I moved to the Upper West Side and traded a box of KOOLS for my first box of ASICS. I joined New York Road Runners that day and I took the 1-2-3 train to Times Square and walked into Foot Locker and said I needed running shoes. That's all I knew to do at the time. The salesperson put me in these ASICS GT-2110s:

That is what they looked like when I brought them home. They were size 10 1/2, light and cushiony. With different lighting and 300 to 400 miles of use, this is what they looked like later:

I still have them here right next to me as I am writing this. All the other early shoes in my running career were donated to Soles4Souls in 2011. These I wanted to keep for posterity. I see only memories of Central Park solitude laps on the bridle path as I pull them from a basement storage bin and take these two iPhone pics now. You can see below that I replaced the factory inserts back then with an even more cushion set that I bought from Paragon Sports at Union Square, if I recall correctly:

This is what they looked like inside if you removed the factory insert:

This brings me to the most pivotal moment in my own history as a runner. It is the one thing I most want to get across to aspiring runners who may be just starting as I was then.

It is all about the shoe. So many other things are important: your heart, your willpower, your stamina, your training, your nutrition, your support network, your knowledge buildup, your schedule of races, your goal-setting, your purpose, your gear for all elements among them. But NOTHING is more important than shoes.

That is what decides whether you will be a happy runner or an injured and worried and frustrated runner.

Let's move to the second pair of shoes and my first hard lesson. It was early 2007 and I was feeling a little smarter, having run my first Manhattan Half, a regular on the Central Park path, drinking gallons of water and eating better and losing weight. I headed for Jackrabbit Sports on 14th Street, a short walk from our MLB HQ. They had a video gait analysis, and that was a hot new thing. I needed to rotate in a second pair. Ladies and gentlemen, the ASICS GEL-Cumulus 9, about $90 at that time:

I would have been fine had I just walked out the store with those shoes. Unfortunately, here is where the hard lesson comes in. The Jackrabbit employee was an imbecile. He misread my video gait analysis. He showed me what appeared to be overpronating, so he assured me that I required Support shoes. He said I could have this Cumulus and just replace the factory insert with a support insert that is built-up on the instep. You can see the insert in the picture above. So I had a little hill on the inside of each foot. He said that would correct my "problem."

I was happy to have another new pair of ASICS and I put those new shoes to the Central Park test, race after race after training run after training run. In 2007, I finished 18 NYRR races totaling 139.7 miles, not including an Oklahoma City Half. During that summer, I mostly wore these Cumulus shoes and my problems mounted. I had bad shin splints. Worse, my right arch was starting to burn. And burn. I had plantar fasciitis. To date it is the worst injury I could wish upon a runner. You try to heal it with an ice ball, with a tennis ball, with a Strasburg Sock, stretch stretch stretch...all to no avail. IT'S THE SHOE!

Or in this case, the Support insert that I supposedly needed. My goal was to run a marathon in my first year, so I bought a third pair of ASICS  a month or two before that 2007 New York City Marathon. It was my third different ASICS model in that first year as well. And I used those same Support inserts again. These shoes were beautiful, and finishing a marathon was a feeling like no other, but I cannot forget that I ran it in searing pain, landing each step of the last 14 miles on a different part of my right foot to spread around the pain due to plantar fasciitis. I still had no idea why it was not improving; I was just toughing it out. I was associating ASICS with foot pain that first year and wondering why people raved about ASICS.

Turn the page on 2007, a painful learning year in ASICS. I wore mostly ASICS gear for cold and hot, I loved ASICS, but I was eager to run in someone else's shoes that made me feel good. In February of 2008, while visiting my boys in St. Louis, I went to the Fleet Feet Store in West St. Louis County. Something amazing happened. A young saleswoman who was also a devout marathoner helped me. I told her about my first year and took off my shoes. I will never forget how she got down on one knee and placed her index finger under one of my arches.

"You have high arches," she told me.

I didn't know that.

"You need a Neutral shoe," she said.

I was then given a pair of Brooks Glycerin shoes - a Neutral. No Support shoe, no Support insert. This is what I needed, she said. Go run in them outside the store, she said. I did. I was happy. My first marathon in them was the 2008 GO! St. Louis Marathon, when I ran 5:21 and shaved 40 minutes off my 26.2 time. That fall, my sixth overall pair of running shoes were a yellow version of those same Glycerins and I PR'd again, this time in the NYC Marathon, in 5:13. I was feeling so strong that I even finished the Knickerbocker 60K two weeks later, my first ultra. I went through an extended stretch where I would go to Super Runners Shops around Manhattan and only change color for new Glycerins. My motto: If it works stay.

In 2010, I started looking around. I ran in my first Sauconys, the most cushiony shoe I ever had, until my English Bulldog puppy ate a chunk out of them. In the spring of 2011 I bought my first ASICS GEL-Kayano (16), and it was OK. Not ideal for me at that time, I felt, but I rotated them in as trainers. I would realize later why they weren't perfect for me. Here were my Kayanos:

I tried Nike Vomero, and they had no issues, again mainly trainers. Soon after that is when I donated nearly 10 pair of the shoes that had gotten me to that point. The miles in them meant less to me than the potential of what they could mean to someone in need. Running had brought me to my new wife, to a new home purchase, to happiness in all parts of life. I was content as a runner, finishing marathons in Paris, New York, Miami and elsewhere. I was racking up the miles. I was experimenting with Mizunos, more Brooks, well-attuned to the nuances of running shoe styles. Experimenting with shoes? Look no further than the reason I went through my only other injury as a runner: ITB Syndrome in early 2012. It required 14 PT sessions and resulted from a weak left hip. Everything starts with the shoe. It is all about the shoe. Lesson once again, stop experimenting. Know your shoe and stay healthy.

Then at the end of 2013 I received an email from ASICS. They asked me to be in the ASICS LA Marathon Blogger Challenge on March 9, 2014. There were 11 of us, and ASICS began stocking us up with their gear. It felt like going back to my running roots. I looked in my drawers and realized that I mostly had ASICS gear for years. They sent me a pair of Kayano 20s and a pair of GEL-Nimbus 15s for training through the winter. They even had a pair of the limited-edition LA Marathon GEL-Lyte 33s (pictured) waiting for us at check-in at our Santa Monica hotel. Raceday arrived, and I was happy with my run under the circumstances (87 degrees at the finish for me), but the one thing I noticed was that the soles of my feet ached throughout the second half of the race more than I could remember in recent years. There had no such issue during my long training runs, but this was different. The Kayanos are awesome, but I am a heavier runner and so they are not ideal for me. I needed more cushion, I realized. Here I am finishing the ASICS LA Marathon in my blue Kayanos:


Sometimes in life, things come full circle. Sometimes in running, it happens as well. A few weeks after the ASICS LA Marathon, Michele aka @nycrunningmama and I had dinner with Melinda of ASICS, and I was pleased to hear I would be receiving a new pair of ASICS to review. That next week a pair of the new ASICS GEL-Cumulus 16s arrived at my front door. I have put them to the test on pavement and packed-dirt paths, on training runs and in races, in short and marathon distance, on warm and cool days.

There was a time in 2007 when the word "Cumulus" almost gave me nightmares. I associated it with my plantar fasciitis. What was this evil shoe? Now I had gone from the Cumulus 9 for $90 in 2007 and had been given Cumulus 16s that were retailing on for $115. Let me begin by saying that an increase of only $25 in the course of seven years, in today's sporting goods environment, is appreciated by runners.

The GEL-Cumulus series just keeps getting better. In 2007, it was billed as cushiony heaven because of the way it dispersed gel, unlike the Nike air system or others' use of existing materials. This 2014 version offers a top-of-the line FluidRide midsole and larger Rearfoot and Forefoot GEL Cushioning units. When combined with an updated Guidance Trusstic System and refined open-mesh upper, the product page says, "underpronators to mild overpronators will be treated to the lightest and most cushioned version of the GEL-Cumulus series ever." As I read that, I was stopped in my tracks. It's OK to wear these if you are a mild overpronator. That original Jackrabbit employee should have done some homework, should have checked my arches. It was OK to overpronate a little and still wear a Neutral shoe. I would have avoid injury.

Here is a features checklist worth reposting from the product page:

  • Impact Guidance System (I.G.S.)
    ASICS design philosophy that employs linked componentry to enhance the foot's natural gait from heel strike to toe-off.
  • FluidRide
    The latest evolution in ASICS midsole technology, FluidRide provides the ultimate combination of bounce back and cushioning properties with reduced weight and exceptional durability.
  • Guidance Trusstic System
    This Trusstic System integrates Guidance Line construction for enhanced gait efficiency while providing midfoot structural integrity.
  • Guidance Line
    Vertical flex groove decouples the tooling along the line of progression for enhanced gait efficiency.
  • Rearfoot and Forefoot GEL Cushioning Systems
    Attenuates shock during impact and toe-off phases, and allows movement in multiple planes as the foot transitions through the gait cycle.
  • Discrete Eyelets
    Independently placed eyelets disburse lace tension, creating a customized fitting environment and enhanced upper comfort.
  • ComforDry Sockliner
    Provides cushioning performance and anti-odor properties for a cooler, drier, healthier environment.

Now I am very happy in these GEL-Cumulus 16s. Last week I ran a full marathon entirely within Central Park, simultaneous to the Boston Marathon. It was my "Run For Boston Marathon" as part of the Boston Marathon World Run, raising money for One Fund Boston. Some of it was on the main Central Park pavement 10K loop, and some was on the bridle path or around the reservoir's packed clay -- leaving the dirty ankles you see in the top picture here. These shoes were really put to the test that day. I have been using them consistently, pounding and pounding, driving up and down hills with intensity. They are giving me steady comfort and support, and they feel light in the process. The shoebox is spacious enough, although during the marathon I needed to retie my outer laces as I was feeling some tingling and needed more space in the shoebox. That took care of it. In addition to the cushiony midsoles and terrific gel distribution, I also really appreciate the pillowy feel around my ankles -- look at the thickness of that ComforDry Sockliner in this pic below at the recent NYRR Scotland Run 10K:

I will be around 200 miles on these after the Brooklyn Half, and I know they will have major lasting power. It is so much different than how I viewed Cumulus years ago.

Soon it will be time for another donation, as I have seven or eight pair of running shoes in my house. The Healthy Kidney 10K on May 10 will mark my 99th official scored race since I bought those first pair of ASICS in Times Square, and Brooklyn will be my time to party when I finish on the Boardwalk at the Atlantic Ocean. As I cross that finish line with my arms held high, my face will be smiling, and if you look down at my feet you will see the biggest reason I am still running and specifically running in ASICS. Why wouldn't I smile? Deena Kastor just favorited my @Marathoner tweet to this post!

Coming next: Breaking down the first 100 Races

Question: What is your all-time favorite running shoe?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The "Run For Boston" Marathon

"Hey did you hear Meb won???"

A guy saw my bib and told me that somewhere on my 23rd mile in the center of Central Park, near a softball field by the Great Lawn and Arboretum. I had no idea whatsoever what was going on in Boston because I was in my own world, literally. On Monday I staged my own "Run For Boston Marathon," my first invented/unofficial marathon since my Statues on Parade Marathon in 2008, and this was part of the overall Boston Marathon World Run, in which I could pledge my miles to raise money for One Fund Boston. It also was dedicated to Meg Menzies, the Virginia mom who was training for Boston in January when a drunk driver claimed her life. So while so many were closely watching Meb and the emotions of Boylston, I was doing a world run in my own world and compiling nine negative splits.

It was a unique "vacation day" that was not about me and was filled with two major difficulties, one being that very solitude that I created for myself (no one ran with me) and a race run entirely within Central Park, where hills rule. Oh what I would have given for only the hills of the Boston Marathon course! In a sense, this was an extension of that course, though. We were one as a running community on this day. All I really needed was my new ASICS GEL-Cumulus 16s, money for food carts, my heart and . . .

A new Garmin. To start with, I knew I would need a way to record this marathon inasmuch as it was only me out there all day. The 2008 Statues on Parade Marathon had been easy because that year it was part of our MLB All-Star Week, with 42 scale versions of the Statue of Liberty places throughout the NYC area. I had run to see all of them, taking a photo with each, even helped by the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation. To document this one, I bought my first GPS watch, saying goodbye to my trust Timex Ironman that I'd had since 2007. On Saturday, I got a Garmin Forerunner 220 at Dick's Sporting Goods, $249.

I set out my gear the night before just as I would for any  marathon. I enjoyed seeing all the social posts by Boston Marathoners who were doing the same thing. I was with them in spirit, I thought to myself.

I planned to arrive at Runner's Gate on the east side of Central Park at 7, and it took a while to find parking. I finally went to the Mt. Sinai Hospital parking garage on 102nd Street. You are NOT going to believe the license plate on the car immediately in front of me there. I mean it's New York, but on this day?

Needless to say, many others loved Boston on this day. That included a lot of people who saw my race bib and said "Boston Strong" or "Good job" -- just some kind of recognition. Not many people did, but some.

I started at 7:20 by running down Cat Hill, and that would be the only time this marathon that I would have a mile in 10 or less pace. My only goal today was FINISH because of (a) the hills, (b) I was solo, and (c) this was an impromptu race, with not much training after the March 22 ASICS LA Marathon. I expected it to be 6-something for my finish because I just did 5:43 at the ASICS LA Marathon and this was harder.

At the 4-mile point on the West Side I entered the flat Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir path, about 1 2/3 miles around. That became my "safe haven," mixing in three sets 3 or 4 laps during the course of my marathon. I hope you can view this. It's the Garmin Connect Player, and if you hit the Play button it will show a replay of my entire madness. You'll see that a lot of concentration in the Rez area. I thought about many things. One, Meg's spirit seemed to be with me; it was my first truly good running weather since last fall, and I would see these signs like a jet overhead with a fuel path pointing straight at the visible moon. Two, the unbelievable cherry blossoms. It brought back so many memories of great runs there.

I enjoyed beautiful panaromas . . .

I made one trip down to the Shakespeare in the Park area to use the bathroom, and I saw a couple that had just gotten married. Great day for them.

I ran back up north to the 102nd Street Transverse, cut over to the East Drive and ran back into the reservoir, doing another 3 or 4 loops. Then I exited on the West, cut over on the 72nd Street Transverse and decided to run UP Cat Hill just for some pain. It was one time when the famous lurking black panther on Cat Hill made me take notice.

The great thing about running Central Park is that the park provides. You want liquid? I know where every fountain is in the park and the water recently was turned back on for park visitors. You want food? I know where every cart is. As I said, this was impromptu so there was not the best fuel prep in the days before, and I figured my glycogen stores would be tapped out quickly. I got to know one particular cart vendor very well, the one on West Drive by the reservoir around 86th. Here is a pic I took of it:

I actually hit that cart FOUR times during my marathon. Two times were for just Gatorade. The second time was for a salty pretzel, which worked out great because I got salt and I could put the unused part in my pocket for fuel when needed. The fourth time? Ohnoyoudidnt...I bought a Central Park hot dog! Mile 20, I kid you not. Michelle Lovitt, ASICS fitness expert and nutritionist, I hope you aren't reading this part. It looked too good. I was unofficial. I was...oh hell I bought it and it tasted AWESOME!

The next 3 miles I paid for it as every burp was hot dog. Fortunately I did not throw up. I guarantee you that I was the only person on Planet Earth who ate a hot dog during his marathon on this day. I don't care.

I killed some more time running around the reservoir for flatness, and took this video:

Between the fluids and all the dust and dirt, I was a pigpen in the park at that point. . .

Then I ventured  back out and went down Cat Hill for the big finish. I was dying. So was my iPhone. I had never used my Garmin before so I was worried that my iPhone would die before I could take a picture of the finish time. I had not brought my Garmin instructions so I wasn't sure what buttons I would hit. Would I ZAP the whole race? Really worried at that point. Finally I got around the bottom of the park, passed the NYC Marathon finish line, and then, lo and behold, 26.2 finally arrived. Very randomly, I happened to be at the Daniel Webster statue at Strawberry Fields. My Garmin said 25.18. I stopped in my tracks. Took my iPhone out, and its final action that day before dying was to take a picture of my watch.

My slowest marathon ever but again I wasn't thinking about time, just finishing and raising money for One Fund Boston and feeling Meg's presence. Then I pressed what I thought were the right buttons and it turns out I was OK. It saved my race time. I love the Garmin. So that's what I've been missing! Here were my splits. Don't laugh, especially when you see my combined 40 minutes in miles 12 and 13.

As I said, my finishing point was very random and turned out to be on the opposite corner of the park than my car. So I hobbled over to the area by The Dakota hotel where John Lennon last breathed and I hailed a taxi that took me up and over to the Mt. Sinai Hospital. My car cost only $18 to park there! I then hopped into my new Jeep Compass and headed home up the Hudson, happy at this day. I began to soak up all that I had missed on social media with the Boston Marathon. I tried to congratulate all the many runners I know who ran there, people I so admire. I will never be fast enough in my life to run Boston, and while I respect wishes of others, I don't feel it's a race to enter through a charity funding, I feel you qualify or you don't run.

Thanks to the Boston Athletic Association, I finally had a chance to be involved in some way. Thanks to them for the Boston Marathon World Run. Congrats to Scott Menzies, who ran an amazing 3:51 Boston Marathon in the place of his late wife, Meg. Congrats to Kel Kelly, who finished strong in Boston and gave everyone that beautiful Mile 1 "Meg Soles of Love" monument featuring over 400 shoes, including mine. I was up there in a way, both on the course and in Central Park.

And congrats to MEB! Did you hear he won?

What did Monday, April 21, mean to you?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Introducing the Run For Boston Marathon

UPDATED APRIL 17: I learned about the Boston Marathon World Run after saving this blog post, and saw that nearly 10,000 runners have signed up to do that, with proceeds going to One Fund Boston. So let me preface everything on this entry by saying that I encourage others to be part of THAT run. You can do this by joining me as outlined here, or just run on your own, whatever length you want. Or you can just donate. I will pledge my miles to the Boston Marathon World Run and will shoot for a marathon but because I have been in light-running mode lately I will just run till I'm done.

I invite any other runners to join me at Central Park at 7 a.m. ET on Monday, April 21, for the RUN FOR BOSTON MARATHON. This @Marathoner run will be informal and unscored and not affiliated with any organization. So treat it more as a long run, make sure you are fit for 26.2 (walk as needed) and take the opportunity to show your own love for our friends up north and for a runner who died trying to get there.

This is an outlet for any of us for obvious reasons. I'm not just running for the city of Boston and the survivors and heroes of last year's tragic events, but also for Meg Menzies, who was killed by a drunk driver in January while training for this Boston Marathon. It is a dual dedication, for Boston and for #MegsMiles. Their spirit lives on in us. I want to do something and I know that for many of us, running is our best way to be involved.

#RunForBostonMarathon will be our hashtag for this, as well as #MegsMiles, so please use that to help spread the word.

FINAL UPDATED COURSE ROUTE: Having run the NYRR Knickerbocker 60K previously, that is my only run of at least 26.2 completely within Central Park. I am going to adapt to that route with this. We will start at Runner's Gate at Central Park, 90th Street and East Drive. The course will be CLOCKWISE, against regular traffic flow, so it's down Cat Hill. The laps will be 5 5 5 5 5 miles each, using the 102nd Street Transverse each time, so no Harlem Hill. That puts you at 25 miles, and I will leave it up to others but I will plan to modify my final 1.2 miles (recorded on my new Garmin Forerunner 220) by following the bridal path over to West Drive and then to 102nd Street Transverse and back to the start. That should be close, go by whatever your own mileage is for the finish.

If you want to run with me, then look for my white Marathon Maniacs cap. I'll have on a dark gray top and black ASICS shorts, with black calf sleeves and ASICS GEL-Cumulus 16s, optic yellow & black. I still have the placard bib that we wore on our backs in the first NYRR race after last year's bombings, and I will wear that again.

Here is the weather forecast for that Monday in 10023. It looks like good running weather, a high of 61 that day and overcast in the morning.

I realize that a Monday morning marathon might be tough for many people's schedules. I'm taking a vacation day so I can dedicate myself to the memory of those who were lost or maimed at the 2013 Boston Marathon, to support our right to public safety without fear, and also to show support for Meg's family, including her husband, who is running Boston. As some 36,000 runners set out to finish the 2014 Boston Marathon on that Patriots Day, we will be right there with them, in spirit, testing our own limits.

Please follow me @Marathoner on Twitter, and I am @markmlb on Instagram. If anyone would like to hang out around Runner's Gate and offer nourishment ie orange slices and salt packets to runners, it would be ever so appreciated. We'll see how large this becomes, and maybe that will take care of itself. Either way, again make sure to be prepared with how you usually would fuel for a marathon or long run. Sound OK? I hope you will feel free to join me and let me know if you have suggestions for other ways to do this.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why the Brooklyn Half is The Best Finish In Running

One month ago yesterday, I finished strong at the ASICS LA Marathon in Santa Monica, alongside the Pacific Ocean. It was an idyllic, Forrest Gumpian finish -- and all the better if you stayed at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows right there at the finish line, courtesy of my ASICS friends.
My first Brooklyn Half in 2007

As I approach my 100th race, I think back now to so many beautiful finish-line settings like that one. I finished the Paris Marathon on Avenue Foch, near L'Arc de Triomphe. I finished Miami (twice), Fort Lauderdale and New Jersey marathon along scenic water. New York City Marathon, winding up at Tavern on the Green in iconic Central Park. One of our MLB All-Star 5Ks finished where the Angels play. St. Louis, you're in the shadow of the Arch. Race after race, my own or those I read and hear about, feature wondrous landmarks, surf or something cool at the finish.

But when it comes to The Best Finish Line In Running *, the argument stops with the Brooklyn Half.

The Boardwalk at Coney Island, Cyclone wooden roller coaster, Atlantic Ocean, Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs, the Party, a great PR-opportunity course with an uncontested No. 1 for a finish. I mean, it's Coney Island!

The New York Road Runners' second-best race of the calendar year, behind only the TCS New York City Marathon, the Brooklyn Half is coming on May 17. It is part of the NYRR Five-Borough Series, and if you run at least four of those five or the NYC Half (so four of those six total), you are guaranteed entry into the following year's NYC Half.

Look, the NYC Half is amazing and goes through Times Square and you must run it at least once (I've run it three times). But to me, Brooklyn is the best Half not only in the NYC area, but in the world -- thanks to its finish. It has the most perfect-weather returning power and charm of any NYRR event other than NYCM. I have run them all multiple times, so technically this qualification process is backwards -- it should be to qualify for BRKLN -- but that is just my opinion and that is not why I'm blogging about this.

Finishing 2010 Brooklyn Half on the Boardwalk
I will be running Brooklyn for the sixth time (2007, '08, '10-12), setting my Half PR there in '07 and then breaking it in '08 (2:15:46). I know the race intimately and have seen it change over the years, and can tell you why it now deserves this title of The Best Finish In Running. There is no better place for me to celebrate my 100th overall race since I stopped smoking and joined NYRR and became a runner for life.

When I started running it in '07, the Brooklyn Half began on the Boardwalk. We would gather at Central Park and ride buses in the dark to Coney Island, and then I would sit on the sand with gulls looking at the sunrise on the ocean before the start. That was pretty cool. But there were some disadvantages. For one, I was watching runners trip on the uneven planks on the Boardwalk during the crowded start, dodging one woman who fell in front of me, and once my shoe caught on a plank. Secondly, and more importantly, Coney Island is the place to finish. NYRR was able to remove the bus component by starting it around Prospect Park, easier access. There is now a Pre-Race Party presented by New Balance, so this finish is the culmination of a three-day festival that brings out the best of Brooklyn for runners.

We now start near the Brooklyn Museum and run the first couple of miles past the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and around Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza before entering Prospect Park. After a loop around the moderately hilly park, we exit in Mile 8 from the southwest corner onto Ocean Parkway and cruise toward the world-famous finish. You have to contend during that long five mile stretch with direct sun beaming down on you and the pavement, and the unfortunately alphabetical countdown of blocks: Avenue Z, Avenue Y, and so on. But it is all worth it for what happens next.

You see the Atlantic Ocean up ahead. You make a right turn for a short distance and then a sharp left up onto the Boardwalk. Then an immediate right (as I'm eyeballing in the photo above) and maybe 400 meters to a glorious finish line. The loud music is pounding. The ocean breeze is uplifting. The scenery to your left is breathtaking, in a charming Coneyesque kind of way, beachgoers parked on sand or carrying their chairs and coolers. You cross the finish line with your arms raised triumphantly, a big smile on your face.

And at that part you are just starting.

Next comes a great medal, a tradition that began just two years ago. Walking through the finish chute, you turn right and make your way to the fun. Nathan's is the world-famous home to the Hot Dog Eating Contest. You jump into the long lines there and celebrate with a Coney dog, chili and cheese.

Last year, my friend Karla Bruning (@KBruning), host of NYRR's great "On the Run" show, did a segment with an Eating Contest alum who was running the race and they brought out 13.1 hot dogs to the finish line.

Watch that episode to get a full sense of the 2013 Brooklyn Half and all the festivities:

You can celebrate with beers as part of the post-race party scene courtesy of Brooklyn businesses. If you don't believe me, then take it from my friend and fellow runner Shannon Moriarty:

And if you want, you can just hang out on the beach, play some Coney Island games, lay in the sand and cool yourself off by wading out into the refreshing surf. You have just seen The Best Finish In Running.

I will be driving to Prospect Park that morning, so getting back to my car will mean jumping on one of the subway trains right there at Coney Island. It's a lot of stops but it's worth it for that finish. It keeps me coming back every year, except for last year, which I missed due to my son's law-school graduation. The race itself is very conducive to PR's, and the ending always makes me look around to see if there are any other races that can possibly compare to the way this one ends. To me, there is none that compares.

It's Coney Island!

* - excluding any races in which I proposed to my wife Lisa at the finish line.  :)

What do YOU think is The Best Finish In Running?